PREVENTING HEART ATTACKS THE NATURAL WAY
THE NATURAL WAY
A fact not generally known by lay people is that there were no “sudden death” type of heart attacks before 1912. The first confirmed heart attack of this type was in the U.S. and was then called Coronary Thrombosis, now known as Myocardial Infraction (MI).
In the U.K., by 1926 there were only 48 deaths per million from MI, by 1939 there were 473 deaths per million, but it was still regarded as an old man’s disease. By 1950 it had reached epidemic proportions and it still is the No. 1 killer in the Western World. In Britain alone coronary heart disease is responsible for 114,000 premature deaths annually, killing more people than any other disease.
Man had been on this earth for thousands of years with no such heart attacks, so why 12 years into the 20th Century does this rampant killer arrive?
Shortage of Vitamin E
Dr. Wilfred Shute, the great authority on Vitamin E explains with great evidence to back it up that it was the removal of Vitamin E from our diet. At around 1900 refined white flour and bread made from it began to appear in food shops. To refine whole wheat the wheat germ is removed, and it is this wheat germ which supplies the greatest source of Vitamin E and thereby gave the heart its protection. A study has concluded that neither blood nor plasma cholesterol levels were reliable predictors of heart disease, but that having low levels of Vitamin E certainly indicated a risk. A Cambridge University large-scale double blind controlled trial has proven the cardiology benefits of taking Vitamin E: it raises the level of HDL (good fats) in the blood at the same time reducing the LDL (bad fats).
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Heart attacks rose abruptly between 1951 and 1953 when the public became convinced that polyunsaturated fats would protect against heart disease. In fact the exact opposite is the truth. Those fats are made by heating natural oils like soya, palm oil etc. to more that 250oC and then bubbling hydrogen through them. This turns the oil from a liquid to solid and in the process trans fats are formed. Studies link those fats with an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes. Marks and Spencer is the first British food retailer to take this seriously and it has been announced that they intend to ban all man-made fats from their food products by mid 2006. Why has it taken so long?
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Omega 3 & Omega 6 balance
In Britain our ancestors ate a diet which had equal proportions of Omega 3 and Omega 6 or 1:1 ratio. Omega 6 includes all oils such as soya oil, corn oil, and all the other oils and margarines you will find in the supermarket with the exception of olive oil, linseed oil and hemp oil and a few minor oils. Omega 3 oil is chiefly obtained from cold water fish. Today the average diet is now 1: 1000 in favour of Omega 6. The consequence of this imbalance has huge implications on our health as Omega 3 has great health benefits. It prevents blood from clotting and it also lowers triglycerides. Elevated triglycerides are more strongly associated with heart disease than raised cholesterol. 25000 delegates at the European Cardiology Congress in Stockholm earlier this year (September 05) heard that Omega 3 fatty acids on average lowers mortality from heart disease by 32% and with no harmful side effects. Not only does it reduce triglycerides, it also has the ability to reduce inflammation which is thought to be a precursor of heart disease. Omega 3 oil also raises HDL and lowers LDL.
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High consumption of sugar
Around 1900 our intake of sugar was around 10lb per person a year. At present it is closer to 120lb as the average person consumes about 12 teaspoons a day. This is not surprising as a bottle of soft drink can contain at least 10 teaspoons of sugar.
So what has this got to do with heart attacks?
♥ Sugar produces a significant rise in triglycerides, (a risk factor in heart disease)
♥ Sugar reduces the High Density Lipoproteins HDL (good fats which control the bad fats).
♥ Sugar depletes our much needed minerals, essential for a healthy heart, particularly chromium. Studies show that people dying of heart disease have no chromium in their aortas whereas those dying from accidents had much higher, and normal levels.
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Shortage of Magnesium
Our diet in the early 20th century contained plenty of green leafy vegetables and so we had ample magnesium. A lack of magnesium causes muscles to go into spasm. There is evidence to suggest that some heart attacks are caused not by obstruction of the coronary arteries but by cramping of them, and the result is that the heart is deprived of oxygen. Magnesium is the chief co-factor with calcium in bone production and our intake of calcium to magnesium should be 2:1 to maintain good health. Without magnesium the body will only use 20% to 30% of the calcium intake and the excess calcium will further deplete the magnesium.
The higher a country’s intake of milk the higher the incidents of heart disease. The reason for this could be that the milk has a 10:1 ratio in favour of calcium and cheese has an even greater 28:1 ratio calcium over magnesium.
Since 1988 in the U.S., more women than men died of coronary heart disease. Could this be attributed to excess calcium supplementation without the necessary magnesium? There is evidence to suggest that the more calcium we take in, the less we absorb. It is true that Japanese, Indian, and African women who eat no dairy food have better bones than western women and far less heart disease. This is not to suggest that we stop eating dairy, but that we should consider eating more foods containing magnesium such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, beans etc. to give our diet a better balance.
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Homocysteine is produced from the amino acid methionine which we get from the protein we eat. Methionine in itself is not harmful, in fact with the necessary co-workers within the body (also from diet) it converts into two very useful nutrients SAMe and Glutathione. Refining, freezing, canning and processing all rob our food of vital nutrients, and problems starts when there is not enough of the co-workers to complete its full conversion into the useful end nutrients. When this is the case homocysteines travel around in the blood stream like loose cannons causing damage to artery walls, brain and even the DNA itself.
Research after research has shown that people with high homocysteine in their blood are at great risk of not just heart disease but also strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and cancer. Homocysteine levels can be measured (there is a laboratory in Yorkshire which offers the facility of a home test to check your homocysteine levels although really this is a test that should be available to everyone over the age of 35 through the GP). High levels can be lowered quite simply by taking the nutrients that act as co-workers to complete homocysteine progress to useful substances. They are B6, B12 and Folic Acid. Taking these supplements together with dietary changes should reduce a high risk to a satisfactory level. There are other risk factors which can increase homocysteines in the blood;
♥ Those with an inherited predisposition. If there is any evidence of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s or any such illness in your family then it would be most wise to have your homocysteine level checked.
♥ High Blood Pressure
♥ People under stress.
♥ Excessive drinkers of alcohol or coffee
♥ Lack of exercise
♥ Hormonal changes such as menopause
♥ Strict vegetarians and vegans (lacking B12).
Homocysteines cause the initial damage to the artery walls, increase oxidation of LDL, constrict arteries, and provoke blood clot formation. Indeed, raised Homocysteine levels are one of the greatest risks of heart disease. Most researchers claim that a person with raised levels is many more times at risk of heart disease than those with lower levels. In fact one report states “Measurement of homocysteins is thought to be 40 times more predictive of heart disease risk than cholesterol.”
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It would be inconceivable to write an article on heart disease without saying something about cholesterol. Cholesterol is found in almost all body tissue. It is needed for the production of bile salts, hormone production, both adrenal and sex hormones; it acts as an antioxidant and can even protect us against certain forms of cancer. It is used in the brain and nervous system. Our bodies need cholesterol to live. It is not a killer. Our liver makes it, so if we don’t get enough in our diet, the liver will produce the amount needed. This process has been going on for thousands of years and nobody died of a heart attack before 1912, so how can we blame cholesterol for heart attacks? The only thing that has changed since 1912 is our Western diet.
Most people who die from heart attacks
have normal cholesterol
There are two types of cholesterol. LDL which is the bad type of fat, which sticks in the artery walls, and HDL which is the good type that clears away the LDL. What is important is that we keep a good ratio between the two to keep the arteries clear. The ratio between Total Cholesterol (TC) to HDL should be below 4.4, above this a person is regarded as being at risk. It would be prudent to try and reduce this down to 4.0 if possible, or even lower. Nutrients which raise HDL and lower LDL and thereby improving the ratio are; Vitamin E, Omega 3 and garlic combined, Lecithin granules, Oat bran, Soya protein, Plant sterols from beans-pulses etc and Exercise.
Statistically cholesterol levels are related to the risk factor of heart disease, and should be monitored and kept within safe parameters, but they are by no means the only risk factor. There are other components in the blood which render a person at far greater risk of heart attack than total cholesterol. They are;
- High Fibrinogen,
- Raised Triglycerides and Very Low Density Lipoproteins (VLDL),
- Raised Homocysteines,
- Raised C-Reactive Protein and
- High Lipoprotein (a) Lp(a)
All these items, together with total cholesterol, HDL, LDL and the ratio between TC and HDL should be standard procedure in heart disease blood test monitoring but, unfortunately, this is not normally the case.
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Fibrinogen is a blood protein that helps blood to clot. High levels will predispose a person to heart attack and stroke even when other known risk factors are normal. Smoking (even in small amounts), excess caffeine and alcohol and being cold will all raise fibrinogen levels.
Nutrients which protect against raised fibrinogen are; Beta-carotene, vitamin A, fish oil, garlic, Co-Q 10, vitamins E and C, and selenium.
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Triglycerides and VLDL
Triglycerides are formed by our insulin’s reaction to our intake of sugars and refined carbohydrates. They are a major player in damaging our LDL creating VLDL and those are most undesirable sticky substances. Fortunately they can be lowered by; Fish oil, increasing fibre in our diet, eating more nuts, maintaining a healthy body weight and most importantly avoiding sugars and refined carbohydrates.
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C-Reactive Protein (CRP)
A number of proteins circulate in the blood, signalling heightened states of inflammation. The most clinically studied of those is (CRP). Research at Harvard University has demonstrated that high levels of this protein increase heart attack risk threefold. When this occurs with VLDL then the risk becomes sixfold greater. Healthy ways of reducing this inflammation are; eating more fish and taking fish oils, adding olive oil to our diet, avoiding vegetable oils and margarines high in Omega 6 which can promote inflammation, avoiding sugars and foods high in the GI index.
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However there is an even more damaging component in cholesterol than LDL and this is known as Lipoprotein(a) Lp(a), and this is a big baddie. This is the oxidised form of LDL which damages the artery walls. A study of 129 patients undergoing coronary angiography at St George’s Hospital in London showed that the patients with the highest Lp(a) levels were nine times greater risk of coronary disease than those with the lowest Lp(a). Elevated levels of Lp(a) is a far greater indicator of impending heart disease than a total cholesterol reading. How does LDL get oxidised to produce Lp(a)? There is great evidence to suggest that this occurs from a reaction with our stored iron, when a form of rusting takes place known as oxidation. However Lp(a) levels are greatly influenced by the antioxident effects of Vitamin C. Evidence suggests that the RDA of 60mg of vitamin C is just not enough to protect our arteries.
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The current drug culture
It totally defies scientific logic why the NHS and Britain’s medical authorities target total cholesterol only as the main means of combating this great killer disease when at the same time, far higher risk factors are ignored. Drug companies make an annual revenue of £30 billion from cholesterol lowering drugs. The leading article in News Week of August 97 titled “The Hidden Causes of Heart Disease” concluded; “It may turn out that we can accomplish more with nickel-and-dime vitamins than with drugs costing hundreds of times more”.
Cholesterol lowering drugs or statins are also known to have many side affects. The Governments own figures show 93 deaths directly associated with taking statins, and that doctors have reported 7,000 adverse symptoms due to those drugs, ranging from liver to kidney damage. Statin drugs are potent chemicals. They do not address the cause of heart disease but are designed to “manage” the problem so that people on them are on them for life. There is good evidence to suggest that statins deplete our CoQ 10. This is the very substance which powers the heart. Where is the logic in this? Those drugs will weaken the heart in the long term. This problem doesn’t need to be “managed”. The root cause has to be addressed.
A group of doctors, scientists and researchers who are greatly concerned by the recently revised cholesterol-lowering guidelines have got together and formed a non-profit making organisation called THINCS. They believe that those new guidelines are a major risk to public health and may turn healthy people into patients. Visit www.thincs.org for fully referenced alternative views.
A brief word about Blood Pressure; A recent survey published in the US found that a staggering 73% of participants who ate whole oat cereal daily for 12 weeks were able to reduce or eliminate their blood pressure medication.
To sum up the whole story; Heart Disease is a deficiency disease. Our present day diet is deficient in the essential antioxidants; Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Selenium and Beta carotene. It is deficient in the B Vitamins particularly B6 B12 and Folic acid. It is deficient in Omega 3 oil and Chromium. We have excess Omega 6 through vegetable oil, excess sugars and refined carbohydrates and we don’t take enough exercise.
Caution: This article is written as an insight into preventing heart attacks. If you have heart disease or are on medication for any heart condition, do not stop your medication without the consent of your doctor.
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♥ Vitamin E. Take this as D-Alpha Tocopherol, The dose ranges from 100IU's up to 1000IU's. Start on the lowest dose of 100IU’s and gradually increase by 100IU’s each month until you reach 400IU’s, this is regarded as sufficient. Do not take vitamin E if: you take Warfarin, Heparin or any other blood thinning drugs; or you suffer from rheumatic heart disease. Anyone with high blood pressure or any other heart related condition should seek professional advice before taking vitamin E.
♥ Omega 3. Take 1 to 2 grams daily or the equivalent in liquid form and eat more fish. Anyone suffering from Ulcerative Colitis or any illness where there is bleeding should seek professional advice before taking Omega 3.
♥ Magnesium. It is not wise to supplement without professional advice, but good food sources are; nuts, seeds, greenleaf vegetables, beans, lentils and grains etc.
♥ Avoid all man made fats including margarine, vegetable shortening, highly refined oils and any foods containing hydrogenated oils. Avoid food which has been fried in vegetable oil, heating to frying temperature is bad news! Boil or poach your eggs and only “fry” with water. The deep fat fryer and frying pan are the most lethal instruments in the kitchen. If you want a spread on your bread use a little butter. We all need fat so look out for cold pressed linseed oil, this mixed in cottage cheese makes a most healthy spread.
♥ Use cold pressed olive oil on salads, and also on bread. Evening Primrose oil is also very good because it contains GLA. Hopefully the local chip shop will one day have a grill and a steamer to supply a nice piece of grilled or steamed fish and some steamed new potatoes. This would be far healthier than the heated oil used now.
♥ Take a good multi-vitamin & mineral which contains at least 3mg B6, 100mcg B12, 400mcg Folic Acid, 100mcg Selenium, 25mcg Chromium.
♥ Take 500mg Vitamin C. Humans, primates and guinea pigs are the only creatures on the earth that can’t make Vitamin C. Other animals can make the human equivalent of 1,000mg to 20,000mg. Humans have to depend on diet to supply Vitamin C. A lack of this vitamin weakens the artery walls.
♥ Eat more beans and pulses, they contain plant sterols which help to keep cholesterol low.
♥ Eat more garlic.
♥ Take a brisk walk for 30 minutes daily, starting slowly and gradually increasing the pace.
♥ Don’t smoke.
♥ Don’t drink excess alcohol or coffee.
♥ Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables plus some soluble fibre such as oat bran daily.
♥ Greatly reduce the amount of sugar and all refined carbohydrates eaten.
By adopting these measures you will be going a long way to turning back the clock to the time before heart attacks raised their ugly head.
The most up to date figures show that 260,000 people suffer heart attacks annually in the UK, of those 114,000 will die. Most of those are premature preventable deaths. This is mass carnage far greater than all the global disasters combined and is happening in the UK year after year.
The only solution must be to replace the nutrients lost in our present diet through food processing and give us the quality of food enjoyed by our ancestors prior to 1900.
Des Sheehan LCPH RMANN DIP IRID
Des Sheehan has been in healthcare for more than 20 years and practices Homoeopathy, Nutrition and Iridology in Rayleigh.
This abridged article first appeared in issue 2 & 3 (Spring & Summer 2006) of Healthy Life - Mind, Body & Soul Magazine. For an unabridged version including references please e-mail us at: